The seeds are in the ground (anytime)

March 19, 2008

M. and I couldn’t wait any longer — we planted our lettuce, spinach, radishes, peas and chard last week on the only nice day when it was warm enough and dry enough to sow something without getting too caked in cold, wet dirt. I felt a little guilty about letting S. sleep through the whole thing, but he’ll be more excited about planting the seedlings later on anyway.

If you’re planting a garden with your kids this year, good for you! This is definitely the right time to begin in St. Louis. (Tomorrow’s the first day of spring — yay!) And if you’re just starting out, there are a zillion online resources. Lots of them are aimed at schools or students, but here is one that’s for families, with honest information about what to do (and what to skip) and whether to make the garden a chore for the whole family, a chore for the mom, or something in between.

In our house, the garden is a chore for the mom. The dad hates yardwork (although, to his credit, he does mow the lawn … but I still maintain that he destroyed the edger on purpose so he could skip that chore all last summer). We have three and a half raised beds, which is about the right size for our family of four. We also have a huge herb garden that came with the house, stocked with a few beautiful perennial herbs and many, many more annuals that mysteriously make their way onto my flats each spring at the garden store. M. is a real sucker for that place!

No matter if you’re doing pots on the patio, installing raised beds or signing up for a community garden plot in your neighborhood, you’ll want to pay attention to a couple of factors when buying seeds or seedlings: when to plant (usually it’ll be either as soon as the ground is thawed in the spring, or after the danger of frost has passed); how much room the mature plant will need and whether it requires staking (for tomatoes, beans, peas and other plants that may not be able to support their own weight); the number of days until it bears produce; and its tolerance for heat (some plants simply die in the heat, others bolt, go to seed and get really bitter).

The Missouri Botanical Garden‘s Kemper Center for Home Gardening is a great resource — their volunteers helped me identify all the unfamiliar herbs in my yard the summer we first moved in — but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the huge amount of info they can provide. Online, I find the gardening tips calendar and the problem/pest calendar most helpful.

Garden centers tend to be overworked and not hugely helpful in terms of answering questions during the peak planting weeks, especially in late April and May, so it’s not a bad idea to visit now and ask some questions of the staff. Some of our favorites include Rolling Ridge Nursery in Webster Groves, Bayer Garden Shop on Hampton in St. Louis and also out in Imperial, and Garden Heights Nursery in Richmond Heights. Once the weather warms up, check out the selection of herbs and veggies at the Kirkwood Farmers’ Market stall run by Summit Farms — I’m always surprised by the unique varieties I find there.

On a completely unrelated note, tomorrow (Mar. 20) is Wear a Sweater Day in honor of what would have been Mr. Roger’s 80th birthday. Check out this promo video by the actor who played Mr. McFeely.


One Response to “The seeds are in the ground (anytime)”

  1. Mark Chipkin Says:

    I thought your young gardeners would enjoy growing the TickleMe Plant (Mimosa pudica).
    If your bloggers visit they will see the plant that closes its leaves and lowers its branches when tickled. THIS WEEK- your readers can put in the word READERS at check out and we will take TWO DOLLARS off the total of their order. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. We love helping children and those young at heart to become excited about plants and nature!
    Mark Chipkin
    Educational Project Director
    TickleMe Plant Company

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